Coloring in the County

Some would say that living in Aroostook County is similar to living 10 years behind the rest of the world. From the areas where the only business is a local gas station to the towns with a Walmart AND a Mardens, our communities give rural a new meaning. People in surrounding communities would often concur that their reason for remaining in these county towns is the family friendly environment to raise children. That is not to say that is the sole reason people live here or that is the only positive asset the county has to offer. For others, the appeal might be the beautiful nature in which to embark on endless journeys and the serenity of dirt roads and potato fields. Whether it’s the hometown feel that can’t be found elsewhere, the lack of shopping and dining options or something else, the small towns of northern Maine are full of rare family friendly towns.

As technology has advanced tremendously in the last few decades, the concerns continue to grow for parents. Television time outweighs time bike-riding in many young children’s households. Children in kindergarten can run apps better than their grandparents. Children may be more apt to play on their tablets than outside.

Here in The County, residents believe that people still have a good grasp on life outside of technology. Although, society is continuously advancing and children are continually acquiring access to limitless information at the touch of a button, parent’s here have faith that the area will keep their children connected to nature and community.

Abigail Nedeau is six months pregnant and is expecting her first child in July. While discussing the future of her child and her engagement with technology, Nedeau was confident that living in The County would be beneficial. “Sometimes I struggle living here with the lack of variety in places to get out and meet people, but I wouldn’t give my one-horse town up for anything… Not a better place to raise a family.” With Baby Nedeau’s arrival soon, Abigail is thrilled to be in northern Maine, a fair distance from the hustle and bustle of the big city’s lifestyle. “I like to think that our big yard and friendly neighborhood will keep our little ones outside and active. I have many friends south of us with little ones who struggle to leave their cartoons. It’s an injustice, really. My favorite memories were made in the backyard with my buddies or fishing with my dad. It’s just not the same. I understand that times have changed, but up here we have some hope. Here people are still friendly, still care about quality time, and since we don’t have too many fancy activities, we all spend a lot of time outside. Everywhere else technology is a free babysitter in the busy schedule. Up here, we make time for each other.” Nedeau agrees that, “You just can’t find this everywhere.”

Jessica Elmore, a mother of four living in South Carolina, was raised in southern Aroostook County. She holds her roots very close to her heart. “Maine summers are still my favorite. Although I love the weather here year-round, it’s tough to beat a County barbecue with all those friendly faces.” Elmore doesn’t discredit the southern hospitality but claims, “My kids are now 14, 9, 8 and 6. They’ve encountered different things than I did growing up. My 6- year-old is given an iPad each morning and uses it for like every subject.. My sister who still lives in Oakfield is sending her kids to school with crayons. There’s an odd disconnect.” It’s difficult for parents to take a stance on the matter. Society appears to have transitioned well into the age of technology, but parents such as Jessica are simply unsure. “I want my children to have endless opportunities and the best education possible, but I want my kids to be kids. I don’t want robots for children. I want my kids to color, ride their bikes, get dirty and just get away from the pressure of technology. I miss that about my little town in the middle of nowhere: people valuing other people more than keeping up with the Jetsons.”

With all aspects of life there is the good and the not so good. Living in a small town isn’t always the most riveting experience, but it is a simple place filled with kind people, trees, fresh air and plenty of mud

for kids to enjoy at full capacity. There is value in learning outside of technology. There is value in what you learn outside, quite literally.